The most beautiful monarch of Europe
On 10th September 1898 an Italian anarchist ran up to Empress Elisabeth, stabbed her in the heart with a file, and hurried away. Luigi Lucheni would confess proudly to the crime shortly afterward – “Who does not work shall not eat!” was his battle cry. It is an irony of history that in his hatred of the aristocracy he should choose Elisabeth as his victim. She was a reluctant empress who always rejected the role attributed to her, and who was – perhaps for that very reason – extremely slim.
“No brush can convey the way she really was. She will live on in legend.” Countess Fürstenberg on Empress Elisabeth after her death.
The story of Empress Sisi
Just as suddenly as the story of “Europe’s most beautiful monarch” ended, so quickly did it begin: she was 15 when she met Emperor Franz Joseph, at 16 she was engaged, at 17 married, and at 18 a mother. With less than two years to prepare herself, the young girl was transported from Bavaria to the summit of courtly society in Vienna. She would remain averse to the strict etiquette to which she had to conform in the imperial court: her childhood had ended far too early. Perhaps that is the reason the young empress so enjoyed being provocative: she smoked in public, had a tattoo of an anchor on her left shoulder, and had a fitness room installed in the Hofburg. Just how “modern” Sisi was is shown by the fact that she had part of her fortune transferred to a Swiss bank account – along with her writings and poems, so that they would be safe if she was forced to emigrate.
Sisi’s days began early with strenuous exercises, and continued with hours of cosmetic treatment, long walks, horse rides – and little company. Yet for all we know about her preferences and her habits, Sisi remains an enigmatic figure. The most we can hope is to get a sense of her when we stand in the chambers she once lived in, or stroll through the parks where she once wandered.
Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig, Portrait: Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Zimmer: SKB/Lois Lammerhuber